Sunday 11 December 2016

Ryanair and Disney were set up during recessions and thrived

Published 01/09/2011 | 05:00

A financial crisis is bad for business but many great companies were set up during recessions and prospered to become global leaders.

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Ryanair was set up during the 1980s when few people went on holidays by plane and has expanded to become one of the world's biggest airlines.

Three years ago, as the world slid into another financial crisis, chief executive Michael O'Leary actually welcomed the recession, saying: "We need a recession. We have had 10 years of growth. A recession gets rid of crappy, loss-making airlines and it means we can buy aircraft more cheaply.

"We think interest rates should stay high and politicians should let the economy right itself normally."

Another airline mogul, Richard Branson, said earlier this year that recessions offered great opportunities. "If I could start again, I would set up more businesses during recessions, when almost everything costs 50pc to 90pc less than during the good times," he wrote, as the British government sought to encourage people to open companies.

"Often a lot of highly skilled staff are on the market and the competition has their eyes on their own operations and issues. Such a climate is perfect for young, enthusiastic and nimble companies to set up and thrive. This is one of those times," he said.

"During the recession of the 1970s, we expanded Virgin Records.

"In the early 1990s, we expanded Virgin Atlantic, as established rival airlines were recovering from recession and the Gulf War.

"Similar opportunities exist today in manufacturing, leisure, recruitment, renewable energy and even space."

The US Kauffman Foundation concluded in 2009 that more than half of the companies on the 2009 Fortune 500 list were launched during a recession or bear market.

Among the most famous is General Electric, which was set up in 1890 during a global recession that almost led to the collapse of the US economy and a run on the gold supply.

Disney is another classic child of a depression. The company was set up in 1923 and then reincorporated under the name Walt Disney Productions in 1929 -- in the middle of the Great Depression.

While the world fell to pieces, Walt Disney prospered thanks to the introduction of Mickey Mouse in the film 'Steamboat Willie' and the 1937 film 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarves', which became the highest grossing movie of its time.

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